Elliot Clark has written an excellent and timely book: Evangelism as Exiles. From 1 Peter, Clark exhorts Christians (particularly Christians living in the West) to be faithful with the gospel, especially as it appears that Christianity is no longer the dominant religion. Having spent many years as a missionary in an Islamic country in Asia, Clark observes that, when Christianity is ostracised and even outlawed, Christians have all the more reason to live out and to graciously speak out the gospel. I highly commend this book. (It is available on Kindle for those of us who are exiled from bookstores!)
Though to claim that we are in “exile” as Clark experienced would be a stretch, nevertheless his observations apply to the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Life has radically changed for us. Freedoms we once took for granted have been curtailed and our lifestyles have been altered. In some cases, this is challenging our professed faith in Jesus Christ as our “all in all,” as well as our professed hope and professed purpose. Interestingly. Peter’s first epistle addresses all three.
Peter reminded his elect exiled readers (1:1) that their faith was being tried “by fire” (1:6–7). He reminded them that, as they faced difficulties, they were to prepare their minds for action (1:13), to fulfil their purpose, pursuing sanctification as they served the Lord (1:14–2:12). And they were to be doing this hopefully (1:3, 13, 21). In fact, their hope was to be evident to those observing them in exile. Peter writes, “But in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (3:15). Though the last phrase is screaming to be addressed, for now I want to highlight that, just as Peter expected his readers to be evangelistically living in their exile, so the Lord expects the same of us in our exile.
In these days, we will perhaps need to be creative; nevertheless, opportunities exist for us to preach the gospel to those who need to hear it. Like family members. Parents, what an opportunity to intentionally point your children to Jesus Christ the Saviour!
This morning, someone sent me a picture of their three old dusting their TV “for,” as he said, “when Uncle Doug comes on the TV.” I loved it! He is listening. What an opportunity. But what thrills me is that I know that his parents are deliberately discipling him to Jesus.
We also have opportunity perhaps to get to know our neighbours, which can provide evangelistic opportunities. Just yesterday, I prayed and asked the Lord to give me an opportunity to evangelise. This afternoon, as I collected my rubbish bin, I happened upon two of my neighbours who were doing the same. One of them I had never met before and, after a few minutes of chatting, now we are on a first name basis. Is this the beginning of an evangelistic opportunity? Why not? Amazing that it took an epidemic for me to meet him.
All I am saying is that, in our government-mandated exile, let’s remember that God is at work. And we should be as well. As I have been often reminded, and as I have sought to remind our congregation, though, in one sense, everything has changed, nothing has changed. We are to be looking to make disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18–20). Let us do so—as Peter exhorts—faithfully, purposefully, and hopefully. And, by God’s grace, may we do so fruitfully.
Working with you,